The New NATO Members: Will They Contribute?

By Simon, Jeffrey | Strategic Forum, April 1999 | Go to article overview

The New NATO Members: Will They Contribute?


Simon, Jeffrey, Strategic Forum


Conclusions

In assessing the reasons NATO often cites for enlarging the Alliance, one might conclude that the three new allies will promote stability through institutionalizing common values and processes. Each case is, in fact, different:

Hungary already may have crossed the threshold. While it has provided lines of communication, as well as a non-combat engineering battalion in Bosnia, the long-term effect of low defense budgets and nine-month conscription is undermining its military capacity. If it does not increase defense expenditures, or if it reduces conscription to six months, Hungary will find it difficult to meet NATO target force goals or its military commitments with Slovenia and Romania, or be anything more than a security free rider. Hungary's choice could significantly affect the future of NATO enlargement, as well as regional security.

The Czech Republic stands at a crossroad. If it maintains 12-month conscription, it has the capacity to strengthen territorial defense, contribute a brigade to NATO rapid reaction forces and a battalion for out-of-area operations, and provide lines of communication. If, however, Prague adopts an opposition policy of eliminating conscription to use an all-volunteer force, the military could evaporate because of low social support. If this were to occur, the Czechs would become merely free riders of security.

Poland's social support for the military, robust economy, and demographics should provide its armed forces with the capacity to strengthen territorial defense, add two brigades to NATO rapid reaction forces, and enhance the Alliance's capacity to operate out of area by providing lines of communication and peace support forces.

Introduction

The three new NATO members must determine what military role each will play in European security. Their choices are important in light of NATO arguments justifying enlargement. These reasons included:

* promoting stability through institutionalizing common values and processes;

* enhancing NATO's Article 5 core defense tasks by strengthening territorial defense and contributing to rapid reaction forces; and

* enhancing capacity of NATO to operate militarily out of area by providing lines of communication and peace support operations.

The degree to which new NATO members realize their potential will influence, if not determine, the future of the Alliance.

NATO-Member Challenges

The new members face the challenge of militarily integrating into NATO. If they succeed, the Alliance will be strengthened and poised for further enlargement. If they fall short of expectations, and if NATO concludes that the first tranche has added free riders rather than military contributors of security, NATO's Article 10 commitment to further enlarge will become less credible, and regional security will be compromised.

The challenge of NATO integration is not so much a question of military equipment modernization--which is not addressed in this paper--but of building a capable military institution that is supported by society and government.

Partnership For Peace (PFP) has created a sense of regional security and stability. NATO needs to be careful not to permit attention and resources to be deflected from the PFP to its new members, as this might erode a partnership that could experience a "mid-life crisis" after the April 1999 Washington Summit. NATO's new members--in addition to meeting their target force goals and providing rhetorical support for neighboring partners' membership--need also to devote their energy and resources into the partnership.

New NATO-Member Military Contributions

Military contributions by Hungary and the Czech Republic--with populations of roughly 10 million--might be compared to Belgium, Portugal, and Greece, whose respective forces (and defense expenditures as percent of GDP) number 43,000 (1.

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